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Goleta Beach Park

Santa Barbara, California, United States


NOTE: Mud from the mudslide has been dumped on the beach (Jan 2018). Ash from forest fires can contain heavy metals like lead and mercury, so don't let your kids play in the mud.

Goleta Beach has a fun, festive atmosphere. The vibrant blue sea is a colorful sight. Too bad the county has let the grass go (even though they are close to the sanitary district where there is recycled water) and now there is just an abundance of dirt blowing around. There is also a very strong odor from the lagoon currently (Nov 2017). Families gather on the weekend to have BBQs overlooking the beach, which is good or bad depending on whether you like smoke wafting around. Little kids flock to the playground, which has views of the water. The sand by the swings can keep kids busy for hours if you bring some spoons and cups. There are usually international moms associated with UCSB at the playground on weekday afternoons so it makes for some fun conversations.
Older kids bodyboard in the waves on warmer days. On weekdays, students jog along the sand by the cliffs or sit on one of the many picnic tables and study. In winter and spring Goleta Beach can be quite a cold beach, so bring a sweater. If you don't mind very cold water, bring a swimsuit in summer! Check the water quality before you go- if the lagoon is open to the sea, this beach is one of the most polluted ones along the coast.
Sometimes I've seen dolphins swimming and making their graceful arched dives near the west side of the beach very close to shore. It's a wonderful sight!
For kids, the abundant driftwood at this beach leads to endless imaginative games. During beach preservation in the spring some areas are closed off while tractors haul sand from the oceanfloor back to the beach, but afterwards, there are tall "cliffs" of sand that kids can jump off. This is a blast!
On the east side of Goleta Beach there is a rugged, wide fishing pier, which is pleasant to stroll along. See the mountains, the endless blue sea, and the stunning white cliffs that line the beach from a romantic walk on the pier. Look down at the long strings of kelp reaching to the surface. See what the fishermen have pulled up. Check out the seagulls as they balance meditatively on the railings.
Walk further east and you come to a lagoon where white cliffs topped with eucalyptus reflect in the pale green water. It reminds me of Australia.
One of few beachfront restaurants in Santa Barbara is the classy Beachside Cafe, near the pier. You can sit outside on the huge patio sheltered from the cold sea air by glass panes. The view is gorgeous!  It's a happy scene and sure to cheer you up! Try their Rockfish served with pineapple and mango bits. It's so good!
If you're hungry but want a picnic not a sit-down restaurant, try the little Mexican burrito place, El Sitio, on Fairview Avenue (a five minute drive). This is delicious Mexican food- something you should try while in California! The building doesn't look like much but their Adovada burritoes are yummy and memorable- spicy pulled pork, rice, beans, and cheese! The other meals haven't been as good (avoid the Fish tacos).
A bike path leads east of Goleta Beach all the way to Modoc Rd and Hope Ranch. To the west it leads to UCSB and to the groovy college town of Isla Vista. It's nice to ride without the noise or fumes of cars.

Photo Gallery

A lone seagull contemplates the life by the sea...

A beautiful string of kelp as seen from the pier.

Lazing in the sun.

An ocean kayak, ready to go!

View from the top of the playground, of the pier and lawn.

Wild surf on a January day at Goleta Beach.

"Pier closed" day during wintry surf at Goleta Beach.

Huge waves at Goleta Beach- February 2008.

Hot Summer day at Goleta Beach!

Reading a book in the sun at Goleta Beach.

The western end of Goleta Beach, near UCSB.

The western end of Goleta Beach, as seen from the bike path that leads up to UCSB.

A seal in the water at Goleta Beach, as seen from the rocky cliffs on the western end of the beach.

Goleta Pier, with UCSB in the background.

Lagoon and white cliffs.

The east side of the beach where the lagoon meets the sea.

It's peaceful to walk beside the lagoon when you reach the east end of the beach.

Beachside Cafe- one of the nicest places you could possibly eat lunch!

Swings with a view!

View of the ocean from the playground.

Bench, blue water, pier. Too bad the grass is gone.

A young couple enjoy the view.

Kids playing on the playground.

February flowers outside Beachside Cafe.

You can see the Channel Islands in the distance.

View of Goleta Beach pier, from UCSB.

Under the pier.

Running on the pier.

The cliffs and lagoon.

Kelp wrapped around a pier pilon.

Rows of palm trees make this a quintessential California beach.

SUP far out in the water.

The end of the pier, looking back toward the mountains and beach.

The grass is not green these days.

California dreamin...

Goleta Beach at sunset.

Golden light at the pier.

Looking toward the pier.

Moon over Goleta Beach, near the lagoon.


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

Goleta Beach Park is located at 5986 Sandspit Road, Goleta, CA 93117. Parking is free.
From Highway 101 northbound, take Highway 217. Exit at Sandspit Rd and turn left. The road curves to the left and the entrance to Goleta Beach Park is on your right.
From Highway 101 southbound, exit at Patterson Rd. Turn left and then left again and follow the signs to Highway 217. Exit at Sandspit Rd and turn left. The road curves to the left and the entrance to Goleta Beach Park is on your right.
Beachside Cafe, 5905 Sandspit Road,  Goleta, CA 93117, call (805) 964-7881.
There are public restrooms on both ends of the beach.
To get to El Sitio Mexican Restaurant: From the beach, turn left out of the parking lot. The road curves to the right. You will pass the airport and then take the left fork. Cross Hollister Ave. El Sitio will be just after the McDonalds and laundromat on your right.
El Sitio, 102 South Fairview Ave, Goleta CA 93117, call (805) 964-6104.
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